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Commissioners opposed to Spokane Tribe casino plan

By Rob Kauder, Internet Content Manager, robk@kxly.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:08:58 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 30 2013 12:56:00 PM CST
AIRWAY HEIGHTS, Wash. -

Spokane County Commissioners voted unanimously on a resolution Tuesday afternoon opposing the Spokane Tribe's casino project, which would be located across Highway 2 from Fairchild Air Force Base.

"Spokane County Commissioners have a duty to be a voice for the citizens of the region," Commissioner Todd Mielke said. "We are literally being asked to gamble the 5,000 current jobs provided by Fairchild on a project that may provide significantly fewer than that.  If we guess wrong, it will take decades for this community to recover."

The concerns being raised by commissioners is that the tribe's casino proposal is positioned on 145 acres of land close to Fairchild Air Force Base. If allowed to proceed with the project, commissioners are concerned its proximity to the airbase could cause Fairchild to lose out on the opportunity to field the KC-46A, the next generation tanker aircraft being built by Boeing to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers.

"This project threatens our largest employer and $600 million of economic activity," Commissioner Al French said. "It would also deprive the county and regional agencies of the revenue gained through sales taxes that drive desired and needed regional services."

Fairchild Air Force Base is the largest employer in the county with 5,000 people working on the airbase.

Last May, leaders from Spokane County and the City of Spokane signed off on a plan to limit development in the area in the wake of a joint land use study to protect the base from future Base Realignment and Closure rounds.

"Look at the fact that we want new tankers there and we don't want to be involved in BRACs and closures in the future," Spokane City Council President Ben Stuckart said in May 2012. "It's very important for us as a community to come together and have a plan to protect the base."

The land the tribe plans to build the casino on is in Airway Heights, and that community has stood apart from its sister municipalities in supporting the tribal initiative, saying that the development would bring new jobs to the community.

"You are bringing in construction jobs. Well those construction workers need to have homes, which brings in construction of those homes," Airway Heights Mayor Patrick Rushing said in May 2012.

The resolution passed Tuesday is being sent to the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the State of Washington. The Spokane Tribe ultimately needs to get approval from the Secretary of Interior and Governor Jay Inslee to move forward.

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